A number of female Army privates at Fort Hood military base in Texas were allegedly pressured to prostitute themselves to superior officers, with the senior-most officer being the one in charge of sexual assault prevention for the unit.
The news originated in the court-martial trial of Master Sergeant Brag Grimes, who, after a two day trial, was found guilty of conspiring to patronize a prostitute and solicitation to commit adultery. He will receive a letter of reprimand and remain in the service, although he was demoted to sergeant first class.
Along with Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen, a non-commissioned officer at Fort Hood, Grimes organized a prostitution ring that sought to convince young female recruits into having sex with the pair for money.
One private testified that McQueen was the main force behind the plan and that he made “abusive sexual contact” with her during an “interview” meant to determine if she could be in the ring, as quoted by the Austin American-Statesman.
McQueen remains on active duty and has not been charged largely because Grimes has refused to testify against him, a situation the New Republic blamed on “the buddy-buddy refusal to report on a predatory peer.”
Prosecutors, based on the testimony from one of the victims, alleged that Grimes indeed did have sex with one of the young women for $100 at a La Quinta Inn. Much of his defense rested on the idea that such an exchange never took place.
“He was tempted and it’s not a crime to be tempted,” Grimes’ lawyer said in his closing statement. “In the moment of truth, he did the right thing.”
It took a six-member jury less than two hours to disagree.
The incident at Ft. Hood, along with several other high profile cases this year, seems to be another indication that the military has a protracted fight against sexual assault ahead of it. A long line of female soldiers have come forward in recent years to report that they have been victimized during their time in the service only to report that incident and have it covered up or be subjected to retaliation.
A November poll found that the Department of defense experienced 50 percent more sexual assault complaints over the first three quarters of 2012 than it did a year before.
Numerous lawmakers have proposed solutions to the problem, with perhaps the most far-reaching proposal coming from New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She has advocated taking the prosecution power from the military chain of command and giving it to civilian attorneys, a plan the military has actively lobbied against.
“It’s the peers who don’t blow the whistle who are the biggest problem in the whole culture,” said Lory Manning, a former Navy captain who is now the director of the Women’s Research and Education Institute.
“When you’re talking about a serial rapist, his friends — and I say he intentionally — generally know what’s going. It’s a huge issue in the military and it’s not much talked about, and nor are the peers held responsible for not informing the command.”